Europe on a Budget: 6 Exceptional Places I Spent Less Than $1,500 Per Month

Sep 17, 2018    /    budgeting + saving, most popular posts

After six years of full-time travel, the most common question I still get today is this:

How do you afford it?

What does it cost to travel the world full-time? Isn’t it expensive? Only rich people can do that, right? Especially in Europe.

But the truth is that I spend less traveling the world than I would living in the States.

Of course, the proof is in the actual numbers, which I do my best to share here on the blog regularly.

Today is no exception.

Without further ado, here are six places I’ve spent less than $1,500 per month. They’re all in Europe. And they’re all places I’d recommend, depending on your particular travel preferences.

Kobarid, Slovenia: $1422

Kobarid

Make your way to the Slovenian Alps and hang a right at the bright turquoise river known as Soca (pronounced so-cha). Welcome. You’ve arrived in the Soca Valley. Kobarid is a particularly cute town with a well-known, pretty church and a network of hiking trails that lead up to old war fortifications in the mountains. Oh, yeah, and some waterfalls and some canyoning and some white water rafting.

It’s also, surprisingly, a foodie destination. And it is incredibly affordable. Think of it as Switzerland at half price.

Where I stayed: a private room in a hostel

How I lived: I mostly cooked at the hostel, eating out 2 – 3 times per week. I spent my time cycling and hiking when I wasn’t working.

Splitting expenses? Nope, I was on my own.

Who should go: Wilderness lovers! You’ll find turquoise rivers so clean you can see to the bottom, gorgeous hanging bridges, lush green forest, gorges carved into rock, and plenty of hills to climb. The town is very tiny, so don’t expect much there, but there are a few surprisingly exceptional restaurants – plus you’re just a short cycle ride or drive from the incredibly famous Ana Ros’ restaurant.

When to go: Summer! Kobarid is nowhere near as crowded as its more famous Western European equivalents, so it’s a great summer getaway. Plus, that’s when all the hiking, white water rafting, canyoning, and other outdoor sports are in full swing.

I’m guessing fall and spring are also pretty lovely.

Toledo, Spain: $1388

Toledo, Spain

My favorite Spanish city is perched on a hill almost entirely surrounded by a river and an ancient city wall. Around it you’ll find hiking trails that lead up into the hills. Inside the walls, you’ll find the cute cobblestone alleys we associate with Europe. And just a 30-minute train ride away, you’ll find Madrid if you’re craving a day in the big city.

Where I stayed: a cute little one-bedroom apartment in the heart of old town.

How I lived: I mostly cooked at home, eating out about once per week. I spent my time wandering the old town and walking hiking trails down by the river and up into the hills in my spare time. I worked long hours while I was here.

Splitting expenses? Nope, I was on my own.

Who should go: Lovers of walled towns and European cobbled architecture.

When to go: Winter, late fall, and early spring. Summer in Spain is crazy hot and popular towns like this can get crowded. I was there in winter and most days a light jacket was enough.

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia: $1385

Kranjska Gora

Remember when I said Slovenia is Switzerland at half the price? Here’s another gorgeously affordable corner of the country. This time, make your way far north, almost to the borders of Italy and Austria (in fact, you can hike from here to the three-corner border and look out over both those neighbors). Here you’ll find a charming little mountain town with cabins overlooking a lake (Jasna) and a tiny town center where you can stock up on sports gear or grab a hot chocolate.

Where I stayed: a charming two-bedroom, two-story house overlooking Lake Jasna.

How I lived: I mostly cooked at home, eating out maybe twice per week. I spent my time cycling and hiking when I wasn’t working and occasionally went into town to have a coffee or chocolate and read in a cute cafe.

Splitting expenses? Yes. Chad and I split the cost of the house (which we got at a discounted rate for a longer stay and a review on the blog) and groceries.

Who should go: Wilderness lovers! This town is nestled against Slovenia’s Alps just north of the big national park. If you’re a hiker, mountain biker, or skiier (in winter, obviously), this is your place.

When to go: Summer for hiking, mountain biking, and other warm-weather nature pursuits. Avoid most of September, which is rainy (we found out the hard way), though in late September when the leaves started changing, it was incredibly gorgeous. Winter if skiing is your goal.

Taormina, Sicily, Italy: $1364

Taormina

This town has a reputation for being the most glamorous in Sicily, and it’s not hard to see why. Expect well-kept cobbled lanes, beautiful views of Mt. Etna, excellent cannoli and granita, and locals dressed to the nines for their evening stroll. Hikers and abandoned place lovers like myself will be thrilled with the short uphill hike to an abandoned fortress and beachy folks will enjoy the shoreline just a short hike or gondola ride away.

Where I stayed: a one-bedroom, two-story apartment on the top floor of a building overlooking Mount Etna (sadly, the hosts were awful, so I can’t recommend it)

How I lived: I ate out often (because Italy), climbed to the fortress above town, hiked down the cliffs to the beach once or twice, and just found a lot of places to sit and enjoy the views.

Splitting expenses? Yes, Chad and I split meal and accommodation expenses.

Who should go: Foodies! Get ready for authentic cannolis, granita, and very yummy seafood dishes. (Though avoid the pizza; they do not do that well here.) Ocean-lovers will be thrilled with the views. And those who just like charming tiny towns won’t be disappointed by the super cute architecture.

When to go: Winter! We were there in December and January and the air was crisp and usually a light jacket or just a light long-sleeved shirt was sufficient. We did get a freak snowstorm, but it was the first one in 30 years and it didn’t stay cold. I assume both fall and spring are also pretty nice (and even warmer for those looking to swim). Keep in mind the beachfront closes down in winter, so you’ll want to stay in the town itself (up on the cliffs).

Split, Croatia: $1317

Split
My favorite Croatian city sits in a landscape unlike any I’ve ever seen. Mountains seem to cascade directly down into the ocean. A hill on one side of town overlooks a harbor that glows golden in the twilight. And villages seem to tumble down the hills toward the sea. And did I mention that it’s wildly affordable in the off-season and much less crowded and more lived-in feeling than more popular Dubrovnik?

Where I stayed: a studio apartment just outside of old town.

How I lived: I ate out pretty often, maybe four times per week, and otherwise shopped at the giant fresh market and prepared lots of salads, toast with incredible jam, and other light fare. When I wasn’t working, I spent time zipping around the coast on the back of a friend’s motorcycle, taking ferries to small islands, and going to see movies (in English) for a few bucks at the mall.

Splitting expenses? Nope, I was on my own.

Who should go: People who love dramatic ocean landscapes, who need a break from the harsher winter weather up north, and who just want a really good taste of what Croatia has to offer.

When to go: Shoulder season is your best bet. Summer is crazy hot and crazy crowded (or so I’ve heard). Try September (which will still be very hot), October, November, or the spring.

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina: $1232

Mostar

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s fairytale village, re-built after the area’s relatively recent war is up-and-coming but still very affordable. The old town is tiny (and adorable), but you’ll also find newer parts of town where the big fresh market draws in locals for fresh oranges trucked in from the coast and herbs grown in local backyards, not to mention a mall with a movie theater (with movies in English with Croatian subtitles).

It’s a good place to spend some quiet, laid-back travel time. Don’t expect tons of activities or a long list of restaurants or attractions. And do keep in mind that culturally dogs aren’t treated as well as in most of Europe. So if you’re traveling with your pooch, expect some rudeness (stomping and kicking at your dog) and a lack of dog-friendly indoor spaces.

Where I stayed: a two-bedroom apartment just outside old town.

How I lived: I mostly cooked at home and shopped at the fresh market, eating out maybe 2 – 3 times per week. I spent my time cycling, meandering through old town, and meeting up with new friends when I wasn’t working.

Splitting expenses? Yes. Chad and I were sharing meal and accommodation expenses.

Who should go: History buffs and those seeking a fairytale-style European old town. Cyclists may also enjoy the new cycle route that leads from here to the Croatian coast. Hikers beware: Bosnia still has land mines in some areas. You’re generally safe here, but do your research before you hit the trails.

When to go: May was nice and warm and while the old town got pretty crowded on some days, it wasn’t all the time (and it never was in the early mornings or late in the day). I’d avoid July and August due to cruise ship day trippers who come in from the coast.


Fellow long-term travelers: Any other places you’d recommend for budget-friendly travel in Europe?

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One Comment
  • Judy
    September 18, 2018

    Nice to see the nice comments on our “home town”, Toledo. We love it too! But I concur, do not come in the summer! It’s just too darn hot.

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